Betrothed, p.26
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       Betrothed, p.26

         Part #6 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice
 
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

  Caitlin flew down towards Warwick Castle in a panic. She was the first of her coven members to return from London, and she held Scarlet in her arms, clutching her tight. Scarlet had been in and out of consciousness for most of the trip, and over the last hour or so, Caitlin had seen welts begin to form on her face. She was out of her mind with grief and anxiety. She was certain now that Scarlet had caught the Plague.

  She dove down, behind the inner walls of the castle, into the courtyard, and landed softly. She ran with Scarlet through the large oak door, and down the stone hallways.

  "Aiden!" she screamed, her voice echoing in the empty corridors.

  "AIDEN!"

  But he was nowhere to be found, and she did not sense his presence anywhere on the property.

  Where was he? she thought. Now, of all times, when she needed him most.

  Caitlin hurried down a corridor, kicking a door open, and hurrying up a flight of steps. She knew that this wing of the castle held the bedrooms, and her first order of business was making Scarlet comfortable.

  She kicked open another door, and found herself in a beautiful bedroom, with a large four-poster bed, enormous windows overlooking the river, and acres of rolling hills. It was peaceful in here, and the bedding was clean and luxurious. It would be a perfect place for Scarlet to rest.

  She hurried over to the bed and draped Scarlet down, laying her head gently on the pillow. She reached over and brushed Scarlet's hair, now sticky, off her forehead. But Scarlet's eyes still hadn't opened.

  Caitlin was beginning to feel overwhelmed with panic. If it had been her, Caitlin, who was injured or sick, she wouldn't be worried - and if it had been a fellow vampire, she wouldn't be worried, either. But it was someone else, and someone she loved so dearly - and a human. She felt so helpless, and had no idea what to do.

  She knew the horrible twists and turns the Plague could take. She knew, from her history books, that it had wiped out nearly a third of Europe. And she knew that once you got it, your chances of survival were not good. She also knew that the pain and suffering was intolerable, even for an adult.

  Her heart broke, as she thought of the pain Scarlet might have to go through while the plague reached its worse over the next few days.

  Caitlin ran across the room, grabbed a washcloth, dumped it in a bucket of cold water and squeezed it out. She hurried back to Scarlet's side, reached up and wiped her forehead with it. It was burning hot.

  As she did, Scarlet's eyes fluttered open a tiny bit. Sleepily, she looked over at Caitlin.

  "Mommy, I'm so hot," Scarlet said. "It hurts so bad. Can you make it go away?"

  Caitlin's heart broke. She wished that now, more than ever, she was in the 21st century, that she could take Scarlet into a modern hospital, have them give her modern antibiotics, pain reducers, anti-inflammatories. Whatever they could to make her feel comfortable.

  But here, in this time and place, there was little she could do except sit by her side, and watch it take its course.

  "It's okay, sweetheart," Caitlin said. "It will go away. "

  "Do you promise?" Scarlet asked.

  Caitlin swallowed hard.

  "I promise," she said.

  Caitlin felt her heart breaking inside. She couldn't believe how much had happened so fast. Just hours ago she'd been having one of the greatest times of her life. Watching Romeo and Juliet.

  Meeting Shakespeare. Celebrating her engagement party, all of her family and friends so close. She had felt truly happy and secure, as if nothing could ever change.

  And then, it was as if a storm had hit.

  First, Violet.

  Then, Scarlet.

  Scarlet's illness had taken Caitlin's mind off of Violet and Caleb. But now, she thought of him.

  Where was Caleb? Why wasn't he here?

  Caitlin became angry now. Did he linger behind, with Violet? Why hadn't he come back to Warwick? Hadn't he realized that Scarlet was sick?

  As Caitlin thought about it, she realized that Caleb didn't know that Scarlet was sick, since it had happened outside the tavern. Still, she couldn't help but feeling mad at him. She wanted him to be there, right now, at her side, helping with Scarlet. Telling her that everything would be okay.

  Because deep down, Caitlin felt that it would not. That her beautiful, incredible life had just taken a very, very bad turn for the worse. And that it would never turn back around. In fact, Caitlin couldn't imagine how things could possibly get any worse.

  Until suddenly, the door crashed open. Sam rushed into the room, holding Caleb in his arms, and Caitlin's heart stopped.

  She couldn't believe it. Caleb looked blue, lifeless. Her heart, already broken, broke again. She was wrong about one thing: things could indeed get much, much worse.

  *

  Caitlin helped Sam drape Caleb on the bed, laying him down beside Scarlet. The bed was so large, it held both of them easily, one on each side.

  As Caitlin looked down at the sight, she couldn't believe it: lying there, side by side, were two people she loved most in the world, both draped out next to each other, both deathly ill. Scarlet, she could understand, even if she could not accept it. She had seen the flea bites. She knew what the Plague could do. And she was human.

  But Caleb? She could not conceive what could be wrong with him. He was a vampire after all.

  Immortal.

  Wasn't he?

  "What happened?" she asked Sam, frantic. She felt her heart pounding in her mouth. She had never seen Caleb look so ill.

  "I don't know," Sam said. "One minute he was sitting there, the next he collapsed. I flew him back here. The others are right behind me. "

  As if on cue, the door burst open, and in rushed Polly, Lily, Tyler, and a dozen coven members, along with Ruth, who ran up to the bed, jumped up on it, and curled up beside Scarlet. She licked Scarlet's face repeatedly, to no avail, then laid her nose on her chest and whined.

  "But it's not possible," Caitlin repeated. "Caleb - " she said, then stopped, not knowing what to say. "He's one of us. How could he be sick like this?"

  "I don't know," Sam said answered, solemnly.

  Polly hurried over and knelt by Scarlet's side, taking her limp hand.

  "What happened to her?" she asked, filled with alarm.

  As she looked, she saw ever-rising welts growing all over Scarlet's face. There was nothing else it could be. "The Plague," Caitlin pronounced grimly.

  Sam stood and paced with anger.

  "Maybe this was a coordinated attack," he said. "Both of them sick at the same time - it's too strange. But why them? And what could make a vampire sick?"

  "Maybe it was an attack meant for someone else," Caitlin found herself saying aloud. Waves of guilt overcame her. Could it have been an attack meant for her?

  "But what kind of attack?" Polly asked. "I don't know of anything that could do something like this to a vampire. "

  "Neither do I," Tyler said, coming over and standing by the bed.

  Caitlin found herself becoming overwhelmed with panic. She placed both hands on Caleb's shoulders, and slowly shook him. She felt so guilty now for having left when she did. Perhaps if she had stayed, it might have somehow prevented whatever had happened to him.

  "Caleb," she whispered urgently. "Caleb, please, answer me. " But he didn't respond.

  "Go find Aiden!" Caitlin suddenly found herself screaming, frantic. She turned to the crowd, who stood there, gaping. "Go! All of you! Find him!" she shrieked.

  The entire group hurried its way out of the room, as if scared of her, closing the door behind them.

  Caitlin now found herself alone in the room, with just Ruth and Scarlet and Caleb. She lay her head across Caleb's chest, and she couldn't help herself: she began weeping.

  She reached over and grabbed his hand.

  "Caleb. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me. "

  Slowly, Ca
leb opened his eyes.

  Caitlin's heart leapt, and she looked at him with new hope. His eyes were so glazed over, she almost didn't recognize them.

  "Caleb? Can you hear me?"

  He slowly nodded, squeezing her hand gently.

  "I'm so sorry," she repeated. "For leaving when I did. " He struggled to speak. "There is nothing between Violet and I. . . . "

  "I know," Caitlin said, crying. "I know that, Caleb. And I'm sorry for leaving. " Caleb nodded back, seeming to be satisfied, and closed his eyes again.

  "Caleb?" she asked, trying to rouse him again. "Who did this to you? Were you attacked? Were you poisoned?"

  But Caleb's eyes closed tight, and he didn't respond.

  Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Caleb slowly opened his lips.

  "Jade. Don't worry. Daddy will be home soon. "

  Caleb's heart fell. Jade. His son. He was hallucinating. And talking of leaving this earth.

  Caitlin felt more frantic than ever.

  "Caleb!" she screamed, shaking his shoulders violently.

  But it didn't do any good. His eyes closed, and didn't open again.

 
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